Max and Checo score maximum points in Imola
Max Verstappen took a dominant Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix victory ahead of teammate Sergio Pérez to claim Oracle Red Bull Racing’s first one-two finish since the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix, as Ferrari endured a torrid afternoon with Carlos Sainz exiting the race in a first-lap clash and Charles Leclerc finishing sixth following a late-race spin.
Max and Checo score maximum points in Imola
Discussing his second race win of the year, driver Max Verstappen said: “To have a weekend like this for both of us with a one-two for the Team is just incredible. It was a very lovely Sunday!
“Everything today was well executed, coming into the weekend I didn’t expect it to be like this. It was more or less a perfect weekend, everything went well for us and we’ll of course enjoy today. I scored the maximum amount of points this weekend and we can be really proud of that as a Team, it’s a great boost.
“Today was all about judging the conditions, making the right calls and staying very focused and I think we did that very well. We need to keep focused and we know that at the next race we need to be up there again and keep this going.”
Max Verstappen started on the front row of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix after taking a thrilling Sprint victory on Saturday, passing Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on the penultimate tour of the 21-lap contest to claim eight points. Meanwhile, Sergio Pérez put in an equally brilliant Sprint Race performance, claiming third place after starting from seventh.
Come Race Day, Max got away well to power into the lead. Behind him, Leclerc got a poor start and that allowed Checo, who perhaps made the best getaway of all the front runners, to blast past the lead Ferrari on the run to Tamburello and claim second. McLaren’s Lando Norris also slipped past Leclerc into turn one.
Behind the leaders, Sainz was also slow away from his grid slot and he was put under pressure by Daniel Ricciardo in the second McLaren. The Spaniard took a wide line into the first chicane but alongside him, Ricciardo slid and he tagged the rear left wheel of Sainz’s Ferrari. Both spun into the gravel trap, but while Ricciardo was able to crawl out to make his way back to the pit lane, Sainz was beached. He was forced to retire from the race and the safety car was released.
The safety car left the track at the end of lap four and Max and Checo controlled the start perfectly to hold on to the top two spots ahead of Norris who was defending hard from Leclerc. The Briton held off the Monégasque drive until lap seven but as they raced towards Tamburello, Leclerc closed in and breezed past the McLaren driver.
At the start of the following lap, Max was 3.2 seconds clear of Checo, with Leclerc a further 2.7s back. Norris now held fourth ahead of Magnussen and Russell, while Bottas was seventh ahead of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel.
At the end of lap 16 Ricciardo became the first driver to make the move to slick tyres and the Australian emerged on medium compound Pirellis. Vettel followed from ninth. The team pitted Checo at the end of lap 18 and he also took on medium tyres. He was followed by Russell, Bottas and Magnussen as Max and Leclerc stayed on intermediates.
Max and Leclerc pitted at the end of the following lap for medium tyres, but while Max got away in a solid 2.3 seconds, Leclerc was stationary for 3.7s. Despite the lost time he re-joined ahead of Checo. But with cold tyres, Leclerc couldn’t keep the Mexican at bay and Checo got past the Ferrari into the Villeneuve Chicane.
Leclerc wasn’t going to be dismissed easily, however, and he closed back up to Checo and began to put the Red Bull driver under pressure. Checo’s defence was immaculate, however, and over the following six laps he expertly frustrated the Ferrari driver’s attacks and then, on lap 24, put in the race’s fastest lap to find a gap of 1.4s to the Monégasque racer.
At half distance, Max held the lead 10 seconds clear of Checo. The Mexican continued to hold Leclerc at bay with the gap between the two sitting at 1.3 seconds, while Norris sat in fourth just under 15 seconds behind the sole remaining Ferrari.
The race then settled as the drivers set about keeping their medium tyres alive. On lap 43 Max pumped in the fastest lap to extend his lead over Checo to 11.7s, while the Mexican went more than two-tenths of a second quicker than Leclerc to widen his advantage over the Ferrari driver to 2.9 seconds.
Leclerc gambled at the end of lap 49 and he made his way into the pit lane for soft tyres. He re-joined behind Norris. The Team responded by pitting Checo for the same compound at the end of the following lap and after 2.2s stationary he re-joined in second. With time to spare, Max then made the same switch at the end of lap 51.
Leclerc quickly passed Norris and the three leaders set off in pursuit of the point for fastest lap. Leclerc set a lap of 1:19.206 and closed on Checo into the bargain. Checo’s tyres quickly came up to temperature though and he was able to keep the Ferrari driver at bay even as Leclerc lowered the fastest lap benchmark.
But then Leclerc’s race came undone. Pushing to reel in Checo, the Ferrari driver got too much kerb into Variante Alta and he bounced, spun and slid into the barriers on the exit of the corner. He managed to limp back to the pit lane for checks and a new set of tyres, but by the time he re-joined he had dropped to ninth place.
Max meanwhile was in cruise control and on lap 55 he claimed the fastest lap point with a lap of 1:18.446. Checo was now 12.8s behind but a comfortable 14 seconds clear of Norris.
And after 63 controlled, expertly managed laps Max crossed the line to take his 22nd career win and, with fastest lap and Sprint victory yesterday, a maximum points haul of 34 points. Checo took the flag just under 15 seconds later to seal the one-two and Norris took his sixth podium finish with third place.
Discussing his second P2 in a row, driver Sergio Perez said: “It was a tough race but an enjoyable one. Rule number one in these conditions is to finish. It was difficult because in these conditions it is easy to make a mistake and put a foot wrong but we managed a clean race and kept out of trouble, which was pretty important.
“On the intermediates I was really thinking to save the tyres but the degradation was high and Charles was really fast towards the end of that stint so I was happy to just keep him behind. The race was pretty intense with Charles, he was always within an undercut range and when we thought we had him under control he boxed and made things a lot harder for both of us. We were both pushing with cold tyres and, in fairness to Charles, it was easy to make mistakes. We have had such a difficult start to the season with reliability concerns and DNFs, so it was really important we brought it home today - it is a great result for the Team.”
The maximum points haul means Max has closed the Drivers’ Championship gap to Leclerc to 27 points. The World Champion now has 59 points to the Ferrari drivers’ 86. Checo is now in third place with 54 points, five ahead of Russell.
In the Constructors’ Championship, Ferrari still lead with 124 but the one-two in Imola means the Team is now just 11 points behind the Scuderia, with Mercedes third on 77 points.
Commenting on the weekend, Team Principal Christian Horner said: “This has to be one of our best ever results, to take the maximum points across the whole weekend, bar one, was incredible. Both Max and Checo have driven brilliantly to secure our first one-two finish since Malaysia in 2016.
“I’m very proud of the entire team, from everyone at the track and those back in the factory at Milton Keynes, they delivered a phenomenal performance, it’s just what we needed to rebound from Australia.“It’s a long season and we’ll take a lot of confidence from this result and try to build on it in Miami in a couple of weeks’ time.”